Lawn Care – Moss and Scarification

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According to Don McLean’s 70’s classic, American Pie, ‘moss grows fat on a rolling stone’. According to my experience, moss grows fat on a winter lawn. Many suffer moss growth in their lawns. It’s easy to spot, lush and green amongst the grass. Thriving as it smothers its less vigorous winter bed partner. The good news is it responds well to treatment and can be brought under control with specialist lawn-care. The bad news is, left untreated it will thrive and it encourages infestation from chafer grubs which can cause a huge amount of
lawn damage.

From a distance moss gives the impression of a green, lush lawn. The grass it is smothering struggles to survive, the percentage of moss in the lawn increases and the grass gradually dies away.

Why is this a problem?
Wait until the drier summer months and you’ll soon see. Moss thrives in wet conditions, but unlike healthy, well maintained grass, which is far hardier, moss dries out and dies in dry, warm summer weather. At the height of summer, when you want to be enjoying your garden at its best, you are left with brown, scorched areas of lawn and areas of dead moss. Most unsightly and far too late in the season to treat. Spring is the ideal time for dealing with moss issues.

Mowing too short, too infrequently or not following the correct mowing height for the time of year can be a big contributor to moss growth. As can incorrect nutrition, not dealing with thatch or compaction and not removing leaves from the lawn regularly. Bare areas should also be dealt with promptly so as not to leave space for moss spores to germinate. A healthy dense grass sward leaves little room for moss or weeds to take up residence.

Killing and removing moss
If you already have moss in your lawn this can be treated. Some people try this themselves with lawn-sand but the results can be hit and miss with the grass often being killed at the same time as the moss. Our approach is a liquid treatment combined with a wetting agent that helps penetrate deep into the thick matting of moss. Ensure your lawn has the correct nutritional plan in place, so it’s receiving the right nutrients at the right time of year. Healthy grass, like healthy people, is in a better position to fight off invaders.

Once the moss has been killed it’s time to remove it.
This can be hard work over a large area where a petrol-driven scarifier is essential equipment for the job. It’s time consuming and pretty hard work but it’s important to get the dead moss out and will reduce thatch at the same time. Scarification vigorously rakes the surface of the lawn with spinning blades. These blades rip out moss and thatch and open up the surface of the lawn.

Top-dressing
It’s often beneficial to top-dress your lawn after scarification. This addition of a special mixture of sand and sifted soil helps to level uneven hollows in the lawn surface, improves soil structure, drainage and helps the general health of the lawn.

Over-seeding to infill
The final process is over-seeding – introducing new, healthy grass plants to in-fill the gaps left by the moss that’s been removed, creating a stronger, healthier lawn that’s more capable of dealing with the challenges nature throws at it.

Scarification creates ideal surface conditions for over-seeding. Unlike re-seeding, where the existing vegetation is removed completely and a new seed-bed created for the sowing of a new lawn, over-seeding works with what you already have by adding new grass seeds to your existing lawn and helping to blend areas of weak growth into other areas of your lawn more naturally. It’s also far less labour intensive, uses fewer lawn seeds and is much more economical. It is however really important to deal with any weeds before seeding begins. New grass plants are susceptible to the treatments used to kill lawn weeds. Older, existing lawn grasses are robust enough to withstand these treatments. Therefore manage the weed issue first and then get new grass plants growing. Remember that once germination begins your new grass seeds need moisture to survive. They won’t be able to manage times without water until they have established roots. If it doesn’t rain then you need to remember to keep them watered for the first few weeks but regular rain is almost guaranteed at this time of year.

Planning ahead is the way to create superb outdoor spaces you can enjoy all year. Now is the time to treat lawn moss problems, if you don’t want to do this yourself call in the professionals and get on top of that moss problem before it’s too late.

Ian Kenyon is Technical Director for Shrekfeet Lawn and Garden Services. He is always happy to offer friendly, professional advice and help 01962 460146, 07739 789483 www.shrekfeet.com